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NOW With Alex Wagner

News/Business. Alex Wagner. Forces driving the day's stories. New.

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Boehner 16, Us 11, Texas 10, America 7, Ezra 7, John Boehner 6, Sam Stein 5, Phillips 4, Rick Perry 4, Steny Hoyer 4, Mississippi 4, Obama 4, Carl Rove 4, Msnbc 3, Washington 3, Alabama 3, Jen 3, Usaa 2, Alex 2, Massachusetts 2,
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  MSNBC    NOW With Alex Wagner    News/Business. Alex Wagner.  
   Forces driving the day's stories. New.  

    December 12, 2012
    9:00 - 10:00am PST  

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ideas in modern history. so why should our anniversary matter to you? because for 200 years, we've been helping ideas move from ambition to achievement. and the next great idea could be yours. ♪ the calendar date is 12-12-12, a symmetry not to be repeated for another 89 years. incidentally, the same time frame necessary to reach a deal on the fiscal cliff. it's wednesday, december 12th, and this is "now." joining me today, msnbc contributor and political editor and white house correspondent for the "huffington post," sam
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stein holding it down stag style. jane mayer from "the new yorker" is here. bbc world news america anchor and former traveling press secretary for the obama campaign jen socky. this is the speed of the fiscal cliff negotiations. blink and you just might miss exactly nothing. while talks between speaker boehner and president obama over the past three days have been shrouded in secrecy, we've learned there have been two offers put on the table. the white house sent boehner a proposal on monday calling for $1.4 trillion in tax revenue, $200 billion less than the original offer. might that seal the deal? >> the president's called for $1.4 trillion worth of revenue. that cannot pass the house or the senate. >> okay then. the speaker's office responded with a deal of its own. yesterday it included precisely
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the same amount of revenue from the original proposal, $800 billion, which indicates there may have been concessions else where. a democratic source close to the white house tells nbc news the proposal included a permanent extension of the bush tax cuts. that is highly unlikely to fly, given the hard line the president has taken on tax rates and what he told barbara walters in an interview airing this friday on "20/20." >> taxes are going to go up one way or another and the key is to make sure taxes go up on high-end individuals like you and me, barbara, we can afford it. it's entirely possible to come up with a deal, but time is running short. >> this morning, vice president joe biden took on the cause in the kansas city star writing, "some republicans are dead set about asking the wealthiest among us to pay its fair share. maybe they just don't realize what they would mean for the middle class." worth noting, 6 out of kansas's
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elected members to congress are republican. one of them told the hill yesterday he's worried about the issue of raising tax rates, saying of speaker boehner, i can see him caving. second guessing aside, boehner and the president spoke on the phone yesterday in a discussion a republican source tells nbc news was tense and lasted about 15 minutes. and speaker boehner expressed this morning that serious differences still exist. >> there were some offers that were exchanged back and forth yesterday, and the president and i have a pretty frank conversation about just how far apart we are. >> joining us now, washington post columnist and msnbc political policy analyst, ezra klein. ezra, we keep asking the same questions and each day sort of have the same answer, but i ask you, my friend, is anything happening here or nothing happening here, what do you make of the $1.4 trillion number and
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the news today republicans aren't giving ground on the bush tax cuts? >> i don't make much of it. what was interesting to me, not much of the deals have leaked. that means the negotiations are going fairly well. a couple weeks ago, everything leaked immediately as soon as anybody said it. it means they are trying to talk. one thing i think we sometimes forget, the two sides disagree in a big way. boehner doesn't want to or think he can sell his members on a big tax increase, and president obama, particularly if he's not going to get the tax increase, is not going to go for big entitlement cuts. the underlying problem, the one nobody is knowing how to solve, is what breaks the actual disagreement here. and as of yet, nothing either side have put on the table that is enough to do it. >> sam stein, are things better than we think they are? i mean, as ezra points out -- did you say always? >> always. >> as ezra points out, the fact they are not leaking details of
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the plan would seem to maybe say we're getting closer, but the tension and the short phone calls and the sense of intransigence on both sides, i don't know, the mood doesn't seem constructive. >> there's a lot involved here. for instance, the idea that the boehner offer says a permanent extension of all tax rates. i got an e-mail saying that was an erroneous report. everything is in the air right now. you do get the sense, as ezra noted, because things are relatively cordial behind the scenes, it seems, that's progress, but we talked about this before. i think a lot of this is plain up noise, there's a reason for it, and boehner has to present himself to his caucus as somebody holding out until the bitter end. if he was to say let's take the $1.2 trillion, his members would say why don't you fight for more, we have time to go. for him, it's survival to hold
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out as long as possible, go to his caucus and say i tried as best i could, here's what we got. one point i would disagree with ezra, sorry to dominate the panel, so male of me, i'm sorry, but i do think we have a lot of agreement on each side. for instance, 98% of all the tax rates, everyone agrees, should be extended. that's a huge agreement. there are some people in the republican party who see that as a big victory. people in the republican party who have spun already this notion if he were to extend those, that would be a victory. >> isn't that the obvious, republicans are in favor of a tax cut? i don't feel that's moving too much to the center. >> mathematical sense, what obama has said is he wants to extend 98% of the tax cuts. he's also said i want to cut medicare in some ways and social security maybe later. but those are big ideological victories for the republican party, if you come to think about it. a lot of democrats would rather not think about cuts, they'd
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want to continue to do stimulus spending. >> the 2% they don't agree on is so important and symbolic for the democrats and something that president obama campaigned on and feels that, you know, he has a mandate to do, which is to raise taxes on the top 2%. >> to your point, jane, there's a sense of an emotional investment in not getting these top marginal tax cuts extended. i want to play sound from harry reid this morning on the floor. you get a sense the republican resistance is theater, but there is a genuine belief they cannot extend these things. let's listen to harry reid. >> how many times is charlie brown going to try to kick that football, because we know every time he approaches that football, it will be taken away from him. we are not going to fall for that again. the american people aren't going to be under the illusion that the republicans are some time in the future going to come up with revenue. they are going to come up with raising the rates or, madam
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president, we are going over the cliff. >> i'm reminded of the famous george bush adage, whatever it was, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, it was actually shame on me. >> that's what republicans are saying exactly this, the white house has opportunities in the future in which it can raise taxes on the wealthiest and it should take those opportunities in order to get us through this crunch period. do the minimum that is possible now to stop us falling over the fiscal cliff, then when it comes to actual tax reform later next year, that will be the white house opportunity. democrats are saying we don't buy that. we're going to do it now, a majority. country supports us doing it and we're going to do it right now. it's a little bit the inverse of the republican argument that if we give you tax hikes now, how do we know we're getting the spending cuts later. democrats are saying the same thing, but in reverse.
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>> they feel they have the wind in their sails, not only because of the election, but people talk about debt ceiling being leverage. it would not be good for their party. >> that's exactly right. >> let's hear from jen first, ezra. i have a policy question for you. >> i think the debt limit is something that republicans are willing to put out there and hold over the democrats' head, as crazy as that is, but at the same time, there are a couple of dynamics, political dynamics, going on here. one, if you look at the exit polling from the election, it's not just that democrats in washington feel strongly about taxes going up on the high income, the american people, two-thirds of the american people -- >> including republicans. >> -- feel strongly. so look what happened post-debt limit 2011, the approval rating for congress plummeted. that was a big contributing factor to it. this is entirely different from what the president went through in 2011, from what the president went through in 2010.
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he has a great deal of leverage. the republicans have their backs up against the wall on this issue, and the question for them is how and where do they buckle so they don't look weak and say look, we got this, though. >> ezra, you wanted to get in there. >> yeah. one of the big problems in negotiation right now, i agree, the debt ceiling should not be republican leverage, and it seems insane to say if you're worried about being blamed for the fiscal cliff, you would prefer to be blamed for the debt ceiling, which might create a global financial crisis, leave to a health scape. >> wow. >> the problem for boehner, a lot of folks think that is the right move. i think it was sam saying a couple minutes ago, he's got to show he's taking this all the way to the mat before he could ever cut a deal, he's done everything he can to build his leverage and fight and push the white house. they don't think the fiscal cliff is actually the marker of
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that. they think the debt ceiling is. that's made simply the ability to come to whatever deal they are going to eventually come to in the next couple of weeks as opposed to the next two or three months, a lot weaker. >> there are plenty of republicans concerned, particularly the economist side that these negotiations have huge ramifications for the american economy, as well, and global ramifications. the markets will respond badly if we go over the fiscal cliff. foreign investors will respond badly if america goes over the fiscal cliff at the end of this year. there's a sense, i'm hearing, increasing pessimism among republicans that say we can't afford to have these kinds of talks, even the stalling process doesn't look good for the country. >> there's other incentives that are bringing both republicans, especially the white house, to the table with respect to the fiscal cliff. we did reporting on this. >> your bosom buddy. >> yeah, but there's stimulus the white house wants as a
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result of the fiscal cliff deal. they don't want to see a lapse, for instance, in the payroll tax cut. although they'd be fine with it being replaced by something else. unemployment insurance passed, infrastructure spending, those are incentives for the white house to cut a deal on the fiscal cliff as opposed to just going over it and saying, okay, we'll just take the, you know, sequester cuts and bush tax rates. >> that's right, and they were willing to do that in 2010 and were criticized, of course, by the base of the party because they felt so strongly about the stimulus measures. that shows how firmly the president is going to fight for those in the final package. >> i think there's so many reasons why boehner has to take a deal, though, in addition. if you look at the polls, 2 to 1, the public blames the republicans if there is no deal. and he's, meanwhile, gotten his tea party radicals, he's punished them for not following his line and his leadership. so, you know, look at wall
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street, they so far the market's been up, they seem to be expecting a deal. >> we'll see. ezra, ezra, i will say, as we go, what is interesting about this discussion is we focused almost completely on the $441 billion in rate hikes, but there's also $407 billion the president has in his plan to reform capital gains and dividends, $119 billion from higher estate tax, which is a sticking point with republicans who call it the death tax and $584 for limiting tax breaks and loopholes, which is a lot of stuff to work out. >> you could get that money in a lot of different ways. if you want to know the truth, i think a lot of people on the democratic and republican sides expect the way the tax side is going to go in the end is a midway rate increase, 37%, 38%, some kind of deductions count, more along the lines of what republicans have been talking about, cap for high-income deductions at $25,000, cap gain side, compromise in the estate
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tax and end in $1.2 trillion in revenue. i want to mention about something we should be careful about on the bush tax cuts, i think it's an important insight at this point in time democrats are closer to george w. bush than they are with bill clinton. they want to keep most of the bush tax cuts, but it's not 96%, it's about 75%. it's 96% of folks will have the same tax bracket, but above that, you're paying a lot more and getting a ton of money because of the level of inequality in the country. the white house wants to raise taxes on the top 2%, 3%, 4%, much higher than they were under clinton. you have to include, a, other taxes you just mentioned, alex, also the high-end increases in the affordable care act, which is kicking in the next month or so. >> taxes galore, thank you, ezra klein, for shedding a light in the way not many else can. licking heels, other gop
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members suffer from delusions and denial. is there a prescription that can cure both ailments? we'll diagnosis next on "now." very sore looking kinda blistery. it was like a red rash... like somebody had set a bag of hot charcoal on my neck. i was a firefighter for 24 years. but, i have never encountered such a burning sensation until i had the shingles. i remember it well. i was in the back yard doing yard work. i had this irritation going on in my lower neck. i changed shirts because i thought there was something in the collar of the shirt irritating my neck. and i couldn't figure out what was going on.
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gift from god, and i think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that god intended to happen. >> remember richard murdoch, who lost his bid to become senator of indiana, due in large part to those comments? well, it appears he has some debts to pay off from the campaign. in a fundraising missive to his supporters, murdoch's finance director writes, "never has indiana seen a more modest
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example of media bias." presumably, media bias now involves reporting on public statements made by candidates looking to be elected to higher office. meanwhile, candidates continue to make hidlines. days ago, it was revealed senate republicans who publicly pledged to absolve themselves to ties to todd aiken sent the senate hopefully $760,000 in the waning days of the campaign as a last-ditch effort to secure the seat for the gop. responding in a statement, the dscc was quick to throw the challenge flag. "it is not only wrong the nrsc would support funds to todd akin, it was underhanded and dishonest to purposely mislead the public about this issue." they did not respond to our request for comment, john cornyn, who oversaw the loss in two seats, has received a
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promotion to be mitch mcconnell's number two. what better way to deal with stinging loss than to double down on the very same strategy. jen, i have to go to you first on this. >> so much to say. >> there is a lot to say. i know it's politics bean bag, but this just seems like an incredibly crass move speaking of the funding of todd akin. >> absolutely. if you take this larger here, the republican party has a huge problem, and it's that they don't think that the war on women, which is an overused term, i will acknowledge, is real or was real. and i will tell you, if you ask moderate women, if you ask independent women, if you ask republican women, many of them will tell you it's real. it's not just about contraception, it's about access to affordable health care, and it's about their belief, as a party, not everyone, but quite a few people, including mitt romney and his team, that simply having a woman on your staff means you're advocating for women and you are in favor of women's issues. unless they move beyond that,
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they are going to have a serious, serious gender problem over the next couple of cycles. >> jane, i'm interested to get your take on this. we look at where the gop has problems, ailments, if you will. hispanics, obama won them by 44 points. he won women by 11 points. he won african-americans by 87 points. he won young voters by 23 points. he won gay and bisexual voters by 54 points. that is a serious problem in terms of demographics for the gop, and yet in these days after the election, i'm having a hard time seeing a substantiative shift in terms of attitudes and policy coming from the right. >> basically, they have three choices. they can blame the voters, they can blame themselves, or they can blame the press. and so the press is always the first choice. i mean, we're the best scapegoats going, it's always a popular move. some of these blaming the press moves have been sent out to supporters to try to raise
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money, some of these complaints have been. but i actually think -- i've read that there is a little bit of self analysis going on. for instance, the koch brothers, who i've written about in the past, they have suspended their usual semiannual con fab, because they want to be state-by-state analysis of what went wrong. they are not stupid. they really are trying to figure out where did they go wrong. they spent an incredible amount of money and didn't get what they want, and they are mad. i think there is some analysis going on. i don't know what they'll come up with, but my guess is it will be a little less lame than just blame the press. >> if you look at the issues like gay marriage in the supreme court, republicans have been pretty silent on that. if you look at immigration -- >> which is evidence of progress, perhaps. >> jen's exactly right. in a way, they have the same problem on immigration and hispanic voters in particular than they have with women. this idea you put up a couple of
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women, okay, we fixed our women problem, i'm sure you heard this too in tampa, we don't have a problem with hispanics, we have martinez and marco rubio and somehow this idea you put up the couple of the right faces and it fixes it, we got the policy shift we need to make. that's the bitter self analysis. they know they can no longer, perhaps, bash gay marriage in the way they've been doing or say binders full of women or deportation. they have the linguistic side of it, whether or not they've made a real shift in addressing the policy side, i'm not clear of. >> i feel the focus is on strategy, right? carl rove is now channelling the spirit of howard dean. let's actually take a listen, because it's not often carl rove praises howard dean, so we should let everybody hear that. >> i hate to say it, but we need to copy what howard dean did, that means make our ground game in all 50 states. >> the problem is you're going to have to have some kind of
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proposal in terms of appealing to voters in arizona or in north carolina if you're going to try to change your margins in those states, sam. thus far, i think the recommendations from party elders have been purely strategy. 50-state strategy talking about shrinking the length of the primary calendar, moving the convention up. is that how you set the gop on a course to right itself for 2016? >> probably not. i mean, it's tactical and superficial fixes, obviously. one of the things that worked for howard dean, keep in mind, not that he had two or three staffers in mississippi, because that wasn't going to change the contrast of the races there for the democratic party. it was that he had obama, a candidate who had a message of post partisanship that appealed to a wide swath of the country. that's what expanded the map. if they are going to go about, if the republican party is going to go about talking about how their digital get out the vote operation failed them, moving up the primaries, so on and so
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forth, they need to have something that's appealing to voters in those democratic states, as opposed to trying to reach them tactically in a different way. >> that 50-state strategy was predicated on having candidates. it wasn't just grassroots organization. >> there's a lot of people in the democratic party who still question whether a 50-state strategy was a viable concept, because, again, opening up an office in mississippi is not going to make the democratic party viable there. it's not going to change the course of the party's future there. but having someone with a message that does resinate to mississippiens might. >> the changing demographics of the country is the biggest factor and what we learned, i think, from the election. it's not the obama team, which i was a part of, got well-deserved credit for the ground game, but the romney team could have had the exact same ground game and wouldn't have won the election. they weren't in touch with the demographics of the country. one of the most interesting issues to katty's point earlier,
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we should look at immigration reform and how republicans handle immigration reform. do they take a moderate approach, are they willing to compromise? they could really show some headway in some states in the country. >> on immigration, i think, the person that everybody is looking to in the gop is marco rubio, and i feel we're hoping there's going to be some substantiative comprehensive immigration reform, his statements about we need to take step by step, a piecemeal approach, it's not what the country is ready for takes the wind out of the sails. >> it's a little like the fiscal cliff negotiations, immigration reform has become like taxes and spending. do you do it step-by-step, which is what the republicans like, because they'd like to show they are tough on security and there isn't a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, or do you do the whole thing all together? if i were carl rove, which isn't something i imagine myself being
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often, i would knock on the door of olympia snowe and say what are your lessons for us? >> fun conversation. >> that would actually be a fun conversation. we hope that carl rove, if you're listening, takes that advice. coming to the recent data, planned parenthood provides less than 5% of resources to abortion services, but that's not stopping republicans in their quest to defund the organization entirely. we'll head to the lone star state and take a look at the eye of the storm just ahead. lauren wanted to introduce cabbage to mainstream america. she created mother-in law's
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the speaker john boehner offers a new plan to cut spending by demanding that president obama come up with john boehner's plan to cut spending. what those cuts are, no one is sure.
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>> now critics say the speaker is just asking democrats to put specifics into the republican proposal, but i say that's kind of fun. it makes the budget into a giant mad lib. for instance, we agree to cut $10 bazillion from the program that brings ukuleles to the sticky poor. toilet boobs. >> we will play our very own game of mad libs when house democratic whip steny hoyer joins us live just ahead on "now." to the best vacation spot on earth. (all) the gulf! it doesn't matter which of our great states folks visit. mississippi, alabama, louisiana or florida, they're gonna love it. shaul, your alabama hospitality is incredible. thanks, karen. love your mississippi outdoors. i vote for your florida beaches, dawn. bill, this louisiana seafood is delicious.
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we're having such a great year on the gulf, we've decided to put aside our rivalry. now is the perfect time to visit anyone of our states. the beaches and waters couldn't be more beautiful. take a boat ride, go fishing or just lay in the sun. we've got coastline to explore and wildlife to photograph. and there's world class dining with our world famous seafood. so for a great vacation this year, come to the gulf. its all fabulous but i give florida the edge. right after mississippi. you mean alabama. say louisiana or there's no dessert. this invitation is brought to you by bp and all of us who call the gulf home.
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military families face, we understand. at usaa, we know military life is different. we've been there. that's why every bit of financial advice we offer is geared specifically to current and former military members and their families. [ laughs ] dad! dad! [ applause ] ♪ [ male announcer ] life brings obstacles. usaa brings advice. call or visit us online. we're ready to help. the war on women did not end on election day. yesterday planned parenthood filed two lawsuits against the state of texas challenging the state's decision to blocked planned parenthood clinics from receiving money for a health care program assisting low-income women.
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this is just the latest legal challenge planned parenthood has had to take up against the lone star state since governor rick perry decided to prohibit anyone even vaguely associated with abortion services from receiving taxpayer money. kerry, not the most careful student, glossed over their primary service, providing health care service to tens of thousands of women who can't afford them. as a result, there's a fear come next year there won't be enough providers in texas to treat the state's 130,000 low-income women. meanwhile, the texas businessmen who cofounded the women-only health club curves donated $1 million to american cross roads shortly before the election. as a refresher, american cross roads spent more than $100 million to fund scores of republican candidates who took aim at women's health care programs. so much for creating a safe place for women to focus on their bodies and well being. jen, after your very, i think,
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rightly stated version to the phrase "war on women," we return to it, but it is, in fact, this is something where it's not about pro-life or pro-choice, this is about women's lives being on the line and governors taking a hard line against providing services to those who need them the most. >> that's exactly right. there are some ironies in this story. one, this could actually cost the state of texas a great deal of money. 97% of planned parenthood funding does not go toward abortion, as we know. it goes toward helping the tens of thousands of women across that state, across states across the country, who need mammograms, who need checkups and things like that. it's really a horrifying thing. if you look at just to go to the politics of all of this, texas is a state that is moving into the blue world over the next ten years. i'm not saying that this is the issue that's going to move them there, but when you have issues that really alienate a
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population of a state, you do wonder if that's -- if this will be a factor as long as this continues. >> what's in the water, what kind of water is rick perry drinking? this is a guy that's also -- i mean that sort of rhetorically, i don't know if he's a fan of sparkling or still. he's a guy in the debates that said talking about immigration, these people don't have hearts. he's brought the notion of sort of emotional investment of one's constituents into the debate on the national stage, yet he's the guy turning down the expansion of the medicaid roles, which is a big deal for the poor in the state of texas, which is 1 in 4 texans are ininsuuninsured and affecting low-income women who need this for cervical screenings and breast exams. >> this panel proves there's more men. >> it's a war on sam stein, in specific. >> it's bizarre to me whenever i see male politicians, and i say this sincerely, wade into these
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issues out getting consultants of people experts in the topic to help guide them. you also see this. with respect to rick perry, it's clear he doesn't feel there's a political price to pay for stuff he's doing. he's not the only governor to turn down the medicaid money, but he clearly calculated the people who would be the primary recipients of this in his state don't mind they are not going to get that help on their health care, and until he's proven wrong, i don't see why he would continue -- why he wouldn't continue doing this, but you know, this is not just rick perry, there are plenty of governors making the same calculation with respect to medicaid funding and republicans out there doing similar things going after planned parenthood. in this age where abortion is legal, politicians wouldn't try to make that process as safe as possible. have a separate debate whether or not it should be legal, but
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as long as it is, shouldn't you try to make these things as safe as possible rather than driving it underground or some un-safe territory? >> that's a really good point. there's the ideological argument of values and the life of the child and you said during the break that there's now discussion about the pre-born community. >> in texas, there's a new term, there's legislation proposed to ban abortions after 20 weeks, and it's considered what they call the pre-born rights act. and, yeah, i was thinking in texas, it's amazing. you can be reborn and pre-born, but it's clear that there is not a big price to pay in texas for limiting women's choices both in terms of what kind of health care they want to get and whether or not they can get safe abortions or any abortions at all. but, you know, i think it brings up an interesting point, the demographics in texas, as is true all over this country, are beginning to change a little bit. >> wasn't that the miscalculation in a sense that
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the romney campaign made this time around, maybe part of this calculation sam is talking about, governors feel they can, you know, reduce health care services either through medicaid or planned parenthood, perhaps those people aren't going to go and vote. what we saw is women did turn out and vote in big numbers and voted for the party they felt is going to protect their health services. >> there's also an economic argument to be made here, right? the more you shred the social safety net, the less access women have to basic health care, the more it stresses out the system. if you want to look at the cold, hard reality of this, texas tribune reports from 2013 to 2014, 23,760 more babies as a result to reduced access to birth control. additional tax paper cost, $273 million. right? >> that's the point i was making earlier. the irony is if you look at the pure economics in the state, this even hurts, aside from the
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moral issues involved, this hurts the state. if you look at many of these women, access to contraception, about $600 a year on average for a woman. that's a great deal of woman for middle class, taking care of a family, lower income. that's a service provided by planned parenthood. >> preventive care, too little discussion about preventive care, but it can be a huge budget saver. it was mitt romney when he passed health care in massachusetts, understood you cannot have a free rider complex in the health care system, so he got everyone insured and made sure preventive care was a component and massachusetts is relatively happy with it. >> mitt romney, the kaiser of the republican party, never existed, then he was gone. we have to take a break, but after we come back, much has been made with the specifics regarding cuts and revenue in talks of the fiscal curb/cliff, but what about the short-term and long-term impact, house
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democratic whip steny hoyer joins us live. that's next. and we can save you 10% on ground shipping over the ups store. look this isn't my first christmas. these deals all seem great at the time... but later... [ shirt ] merry christmas, everybody! not so much. ho ho ho! this isn't that kind of deal. [ male announcer ] break from the holiday stress. save on ground shipping at fedex office. since ameriprise financial was founded back in 1894, they've been committed to putting clients first. helping generations through tough times. good times. never taking a bailout. there when you need them. helping millions of americans over the centuries. the strength of a global financial leader. the heart of a one-to-one relationship. together for your future. ♪
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give the gift of doing, in-store or online. to all you negotiators who are now negotiating on the so-called fiscal cliff and stuff, keep your hands off medicare and keep your hands off medicaid. >> cuts to medicaid are not the solution. >> we're not budging on medicare, and we're not budging on medicaid. >> that was a group of senate democrats yesterday with an abundantly clear message, these sacred cows are still sacred. meanwhile, more evidence of republicans possibly breaking from once intransigent positions, including that on defense spending. politico writes today, some republicans okay with defense cuts. south carolina congressman told them if we don't take defense spending seriously, it undermines our credibility on other spending issues. last week, michigan congressman justin amash said this at an
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event. >> i think they are willing to raise taxes to avoid any defense cuts, and i think they are willing to take really bad deals to avoid any defense cuts, even a few dollars. a party that's not even willing to look and say, can we reduce defense spending to george w. bush levels, that's a frightening scenario. >> meanwhile, even more goppers are breaking ranks on taxes, saying they would allow tax cuts on the wealthy to expire. joining us now to make sense of all this, the house democratic whip, congressman steny hoyer of maryland. congressman, thanks so much for joining us. >> alex, that's a tall order to make sense of what we're doing. >> we're looking to you like a lighthouse in the darkness. congressman hoyer, let's talk about -- we talked a lot about republicans and where they are, and i'm certainly keen to hear your thoughts, but in terms of the democrats, there seems to be
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a very firm stance at present on the left, which is we are not touching entitlement programs. are you at all concerned about getting the dems to the table in terms of a broader deal in terms of the on ci of what we're hearing? >> i think what you're hearing from democrats is we have no intention of undermining the security of our seniors or people who need health care. that does not mean we're not going to look at the long-term fiscal stainability of those programs. i think we are prepared to do that, but we want to make sure nobody who is relying on social security and which frankly has not been part of the debt creation, it is part of the fiscal situation that we're confronting, but it's not created the debt. and medicare, as well, which is absolutely essential for the health of so many millions of
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americans. but i think that democrats are prepared and have said, look, everything's on the table. that doesn't mean we're for what's going to be on the table, but we need to have a full consideration of the whole gamut of things that are creating this issue and that can solve this issue. we need to not go over the fiscal cliff. we need to come to an agreement. and the president, i think, is working hard to get there. and very frankly, i think john boehner wants to get there. the issue is whether john boehner will have the support of a majority of his party, when and if, he gets there with the president. he had an agreement with the president over a year ago. that agreement fell apart, frankly, because he could not get the support of his own party. but it's necessary for us to come to a place where we will be able to adopt a fiscally sustainable, credible path for this country. that will give great confidence to the american people and will
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be, in my opinion, the single largest stimulus package that we could pass for the economy. >> congressman, let's talk a little bit about john boehner, because the deal he could have gotten last year was for republicans, at least, better. do you sense he could hold together his caucus? we are not getting a lot of readouts in terms of substance, but it sounds, quote, tense up there. >> as you pointed out, there are a lot of republicans, both in the senate and in the house, who have been saying, look, we understand we need more revenues, and although speaker boehner has said no increase in rates, some of those members have said, well, if the rates go up on the wealthiest in america, so be it. that doesn't necessarily mean that would be their first choice, but they are prepared to support that if it gets us on a path to a fiscally sustainable policy. so i think john boehner is trying to grow in his own party a majority of his party to support an agreement, and if we
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reach an agreement, there are going to be items in it that everybody doesn't like. may not be the same thing that they don't like, but there will be things people don't like. that's the nature of compromise. you don't like some things, you like other things. i think america is hoping that we will not go over the fiscal cliff, that we will come to an agreement, and that agreement will not, in any way, hurt the most vulnerable in our country. in my view, the richest country on the face of the earth can solve its fiscal challenge without hurting the vulnerable. i think that will -- that's what you're hearing from democrats, vulnerable in this country ought not to be looked to. those of us who are doing better, we ought to be looked to, and we ought to make a little more contribution and get a little less. but we need to look at both sides of the equation, as republicans have said. clearly, we need to look at spending. we've already looked at spending. that doesn't mean we need to stop that, but we've already
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done a trillion dollars worth of cuts and restraints, and the president has put forward some very, very specific proposals for cuts in spending, and we have not yet seen that from the republicans. they've done some conclusionary, they want to cut $300 billion, raise revenues $800 billion, but they don't say how they are going to do that, which is going to be necessary if we are going to really be able to get to an agreement. >> congressman, i want to open this up to our panel really quickly. sam stein, when we talk about where the republicans are on all this, there was some sense that boehner -- jay carney was out there saying you want specifics, check out pages 17 to 54 of the proposal, there are some specifics, let's play ball, and boehner's office cowed by that, had to put something else on the table. do you think there's actually movement going on within his caucus, progress being made, and to what degree do you think he needs to be worried about his
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speakership? conventional wisdom is he's going to be fine no matter what. >> there was an idea floated boehner wants to move this past his reelection as speaker to have this protected, that would be january 3rd. boehner's office denied that as, quote, nutty. i have a question for the congressman about the debt ceiling, which seems to be now the fault position for the republicans, let's get rid of this and negotiate on the debt ceiling. two questions, one, will any agreement come out for the fiscal cliff leave the debt ceiling unresolved, and, two, what would you even negotiate on the debt ceiling, should that be something that republicans force your hand on? are you with the president who says we need to kick them of that habit and never negotiate on raising the debt ceiling again? >> i think the president is right. the debt ceiling ought not to be a negotiable item. i don't know of anyone who agrees not putting america's credit worthiness at risk,
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saying to the world that america has incurred debt but is not going to pay them, is an alternative. i don't think that's -- i think senator mcconnell doesn't believe that, senator reid doesn't believe it, congresswoman pelosi doesn't agree, i don't agree, the majority leader doesn't agree with that. this ought not to be an item of negotiations or a leverage item, as i would hope speaker boehner would take that off the table as some sort of leverage item. what the president has suggested, take senator mcconnell's suggestion. the president would say we need to raise the debt limit, and these are for bills we've incurred. >> congressman hoyer, may i make a small plea, which is from those of us in the media, please, do not make us go through the debt ceiling debate in three months, for our own sanity. >> i hope we can accommodate you. >> steny hoyer, thank you so much for being our lighthouse in the dark, dark dome that is capitol hill. >> thank you so much.
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that's all for now. i want to thank our panelists, sam stein, jan mayer, katty kay, jen. new prilosec otc wildberry
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